July 19, 2009
This film can be enjoyed for the atmosphere of it's period, all good quaint fun.
Like most of the Wontner Holmes pictures (and this is not the best of them)it's rather slow.
The story here is actually derived from Silver Blaze and has no real connection to the Baskervilles or a certain very large hound.
The reviewer above is being disingenuous by decribing Norwood and Wontner as 'purest' in relation to later Holmes incarnations, and indeed Wontner faced criticism almost immediately for being too mellow and too stiff.
That said, his physical resemblance (which is justly famous) and a solid ability to act the part do contribute to the pleasures this fim offers.
June 20, 2007
Arthur Wontner vs Basil Rathbone
Arthur Wontner, like Eille Norwood before him, is considered to have given us a "purist's" interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous Consulting Detective. There have been those, in more recent years, who find him "too phlegmatic" (apparently they prefer the more eccentric version given us by the likes of the late Mr. Jeremy Brett). Now, I am second to none in my enjoyment of Mr. Brett's work, but if we look at the original stories and consider the character of Mr. Sherlock Holmes as Conan Doyle presents him to us, then we must admit that Messrs Norwood and Wontner come much closer than these more "modern" interpretations.
This film (US title "Murder at the Baskervilles") was released in the UK in 1937 as "Silver Blaze" (which is the title of the Conan Doyle short story on which it is based)was to be the fifth and last time Mr. Wontner was to portray Sherlock Holmes...and it is pretty clear that the film-makers were well aware of this and brought back many fan favorites for Mr. Wontner's final bow. Chief among these is Lyn Harding as the evil Professor Moriarty. And Ian Fleming...no, not the same fellow who created James Bond...as Dr. Watson. We are even given a glimpse of another old friend, Sir Henry Baskerville who (in the Conan Doyle novel) describes the Hound as the (ahem) "pet" story of the family. A rather delightful pun on the word which CAN mean "favorite" but clearly is used because the creature IS, after all, a dog. I've often felt sorry that most readers and reviewers of the novel just gloss over that entirely).
Ian Fleming (the actor) was to be no stranger to fictional British detectives...two years earlier he played "Henry Norman" in SEXTON BLAKE AND THE MADEMOISELLE. Now, if you're unaware of that long-running series of boy's detective stories that has been written in the UK by various authors since 1893, then all I can say is "shame on you...call yerself a 'tec fan???"
John Creasey's THE TOFF (another series of novels) made it into films and Mr. Fleming is in two of those: 1952's SALUTE THE TOFF and HAMMER THE TOFF. In 1954 he encounters the ubiquitous Simon Templar (this time played by Louis Hayward) in THE SAINT'S RETURN. Well, I could go on and on. His last role (this time on television) came just a year before his death in 1969 on the first episode of I, CLAUDIUS in the role of Senitus.
As I said, this 1937 production of "Silver Blaze" (aka MURDER AT THE BASKERVILLES) was Mr. Wontner's last appearance as Holmes.
Well, audiences weren't long deprived,in 1939, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce would team up for the first time in THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and start a whole NEW series (which would involve a couple different film studios and a radio network along the way).
Hopefully someone will post the rest of Mr. Wonter's Holmes films at a future time here in the archive. We have two...we're only missing three.
March 28, 2007
Not Basil Rathbone, but not bad
This is a somewhat distorted version of the Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze. It has nothing to do with The Hound of the Baskervilles other than Holmes staying at Baskerville Hall while he solves the mystery (which makes for quite a commute when you consider the distance between the two places). Anyway you'll find this film quite watchable and entertaining in its own way.